Episcopal Church of Cuba navigates leadership transition with plans for future growth

By Shireen Korkzan
Posted Oct 17, 2023

After serving as provisional bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba for more than three months, Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado has established several goals to accomplish before a new bishop of Cuba is elected. He shared those priorities during a webinar on Oct. 15, 2023, hosted by Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, a U.S.-based nonprofit that assists Cuban clergy. Photo: Screenshot

[Episcopal News Service] Puerto Rico Bishop Rafael Morales Maldonado, after serving for more than three months as provisional bishop of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, has identified several initial priorities, including increasing the number of clergy and rebuilding church properties that are in disrepair.

“At the end of the year, we will have a new priest in the diocese of Cuba, and I am very happy about that because we need all hands possible,” Morales said in an Oct. 15 webinar to share his experiences so far with Cuba. Nearly 70 Episcopalians joined him in a Zoom session hosted by Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba, a U.S.-based nonprofit that assists Cuban clergy.

Morales was installed as provisional bishop of Cuba on June 24, replacing the Rt. Rev. Griselda Delgado del Carpio, who retired in March after having served as the diocese’s bishop since 2010. She was the first woman to serve as a diocesan bishop in Cuba and in Latin America.

During the webinar, Morales shared some of what he hopes to accomplish before the next permanent bishop is installed in the diocese.

“I want to finish the construction of the bishop office,” he said, “because it’s my wish to provide to the new bishop the house and the offices.”

Morales also said he believes that deacons should be empowered to help priests with operating congregations.

Volunteers with the Friends group also discussed the current economic crisis in Cuba and the state of parishes there. The Caribbean island is facing food, fuel and medicine shortages while wages remain low. Access to clean drinking water is also limited.

Lois Redmond, co-lead of the Cuban ministry at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania, said that while donating money and food to churches in Cuba is crucial, building relationships with them is also important.

“The finances are necessary, but the relationship is much deeper than what money can buy,” she said. “The other objective of a relationship is to lift up the communities and to welcome them into The Episcopal Church in Cuba. There was a very sad period when the American Episcopal Church severed relationships with the Cuban church. And now that we have welcomed the Cuban church back into The Episcopal Church in the U.S., it’s so important for us to create that relationship with the individuals in these parishes.”

Anglican presence on the island dates to 1871. The church became a missionary district of The Episcopal Church in 1901, but the two churches separated in the 1960s, after Fidel Castro seized power and diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States disintegrated. The reunification of the church in Cuba with The Episcopal Church was finalized in 2020, after five years of efforts that included approval by the 79th General Convention in 2018. It is now part of the church’s Province II, which also includes the Diocese of Puerto Rico.

Speakers in the Oct. 15 webinar also shared how Episcopalians in the United States can support and build relationships with parishes in Cuba. A list of ways to help is available on Friends of the Episcopal Church of Cuba’s website. A list of resources is also available on Episcopal Relief & Development’s website.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at skorkzan@episcopalchurch.org.